Raid my kids loot?

Survived another Halloween…the day after should never have been a Saturday. The Halloween pumpkin JCA _GGcreatures that live here got into the loot and then hid it all over the house. While the kids thought, they were cool and great spies…only to have their hiding spot discovered by the trail of wrappers and half-eaten candy bars. If that was not enough, the toddler crew got a hold of bubble gum and spat out what they did not like…(without the benefit of a nearby garbage). Part of this bedlam has lots to do with just being too tired this year to police the spoils.

I too… must confess. I am one of those parents who look forward to raiding the children’s Halloween loot for a few extra goodies to nibble on at work. This year that plan did not work so well. Just as starters, this year, I had only minimum child labour working the streets. I officially only had five kids out actively collecting goodies in costumes and two of these kids were four years old and under (sadly…they tire easily and the yield is minimal). At my revered age, this goat was too exhausted to sort all the candy except for the mandatory weed out of ALL peanut products to protect the severely allergic family members (myself included).

Years, gone by when there were 7 or more little goats working the streets (and I was younger and on my game), the loot would last for literally weeks. I had it locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Often, I was still enjoying Halloween spoils long after celebrating New Years, the following January.

Sugar-HeartIMG_1783_SMALLER

Unfortunately, this year, I underestimated the spell sugar still casts among the older crowd. Those who tell me daily they are adults (namely ages 22, 20, 17.5 and 15 years old), also lack any vestige of a social conscience. Those older teenagers surreptitiously raided the little kid’s loot as the children slept. Less than 48 hours past Halloween and not a chocolate bar could be found.  (!!) Okay…there must still be all that other junk like jaw-breakers, gum, licorice, exploding pop candy (I kid you not…actually one of my favourites). Nope, nothing…except the wrappers leading a trail to the older culprits.

Chocolate and prayer GG

In the old days, I used to go to work with enough goodies to share with co-workers right up to the Christmas Holidays. This year, on Monday, there was not even one tiny chocolate bar left to be had.

Halloween is a karma-type ritual where the universe gives parents all over the world…some payback. The sleepless nights with sick and crying kids, diapers, last-minute-homework (and a whole pile of other crisis and chaos) as each of us earns our stripes as parents.

Raid my kids loot?…Absolutely!…Halloween candy clearly is a perk of parenthood.

Candy-Halloween-GG

Whether I believe in all the reasons for or against Halloween, I am heavily invested. From early summer, when the little ones start planning costumes for Halloween to the ensuring all participants have costumes and on through to securing enough candy for an entire village to hand out on the day. Months of planning, scheming and saving up funds is dashed when as an adult I am forced to go to work without so much as a hint of sugar.

Last Monday, I sat in my office, no longer any evidence at work (post-Halloween) that I have a super-sized family (actually any kids for that matter). My childless co-workers have more chocolate than I do for the first time in forever. Memo to self for next year…raid the loot late on Halloween night stashing the goods at my office(across town) and bring select treats home every day, after work, but only for the under 12-years-old crowd.

In the meantime, I can be found scouring the Halloween sales until it is time to raid their Christmas Stockings, looking for chocolate!

The Garden Goat

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Gratitude…self-measuring of one’s blessings

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. ChestertonGG-Gratitude_IMG_1555-Copyright-2014

If one more person asks me how can I work a full-time job, look after 9 kids and still maintain and keep the house in check…I will have to resort to showing pictures of the zoo my house really is! Okay, I get that for the rank and file parent out there; just managing one or two kids is exhausting. Not to mention the kid’s stuff, a spouse (their stuff), work (lots of stuff) and a home (even more stuff) and then balancing schedules… plus laundry!

People meet me and after they pick their jaw up off the ground (after learning this goat has 9 kids)…the very next statement that rolls off their tongue is “Well…it is nice that you can afford them and don’t have to work!”

What?

Not sure why this is an automatic assumption on the part of the rest of the world …but so often it is. When I fill in the blanks… “No, not quite…I work full-time.” I often have to state that “work” is “outside” of running a household that size (which in itself is a full-time occupation)!” The reaction varies from “I do not know how you do it!” (Actually… neither do I), through “you are crazy!” (Ah…yes, tell me something I don’t already know) or “I guess you pay a cleaning lady!” (The short answer is NO!). The best one of all “Then surely you must drink” (okay…maybe I should?).

The reality is I do not try as hard as the rest of you do and that is where the difference resides. I lowered my standards eons ago. I just take care of the basics (for those of you that are worried …laundry and regular bathing are considered basics at my house).

kidsA key tip in managing a tribe of this size is never to visit Pinterest. Then I do not have to view the crafty, clever and creative solutions, better minds than mine devised to ensure one’s home looks like it came out of a magazine. Nor do I have to see the endless recipes and ideas for animal themed cupcakes and haute cuisine/couture for the kindergarten crowd. I am spared understanding that the furniture currently located in my living room is something neighborhood services would decline to sell in the local thrift store. Furthermore, I will be isolated from all the cute and clever toddler hairstyles that scream to the world “Mommy REALLY cares.”  Instead, I just do the basics.

I try to be sure the bills are all paid, there is good food, adequate clothing (sometime even “cool” stuff in my daughter’s own words) and that the house is well enough maintained that neither child services or public health has had to issue an edict against me (so far…so good)!

Along the way, there are some things that have slipped by the wayside.

Years ago, when I was a younger goat and only had 4 or 5 kids, I would do some of those AWESOME mom things like baking each child’s class their own gingerbread house, decorating it with tons of candy and personally delivering to each child’s classroom. (That would be when I wasn’t baking other treats for the school or writing I love you notes in my children’s lunches.)  I also used to publish a family newsletter every year detailing the each child’s adventures and exploits from the previous year and send this epistle out to the faithful. (At one point, complete strangers were asking to be included on the newsletter list as apparently it had HUGE entertainment value). I used to bake, knit sweaters, sew and draw while still working full-time. People always marveled at how I could balance all that I did while working for an external employer.  Those were the days. Then number “7”, “8” and “9” babies came along in tandem with advancing age forcing this goat to slow down a little more.

People always assume I am trying to be super mom. Nothing could be further than the truth. I am human (mostly) and any cape and tights I might lay claim to are likely to have been stolen by some kid as their Halloween costume.

The real issue is not how I handle anything, it is the preconceived notion that I have to get everything right or my child will turn out as a delinquent (at times each kid has had their moments). Perfectly wonderful human beings have been raised in less than ideal circumstances while convicted criminals have been known to come from well-kept homes, designed by Martha Stewart and raised in accordance with societal norms.

Lowering my standards means that when I sit in maple syrup at my house …and it is no longer still sticky…it is a good day (no kidding)!  Perhaps a better phrase than “lowering my standards” would be to say increasing my gratitude for everyday things.

These are the things that cannot be found on Pinterest, in magazines or in anyone’s well-kept house.

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My collection of “things” reside in my heart, captured forever in my memory, the everyday thrills of my adventure raising more kids than the average goat. These include all “I love you mom” whisperings in my ear, snuggles with the little folk at bedtime, random kisses & hugs.

Before anyone thinks this is a Hallmark greeting card (my life that is), my gratitude also extends to the lively debates (some heated) regularly held with the teenagers (with broken or ruined décor in the house to prove it). I have the same frustrations and stress on my path as the average parent. Sometimes sheer numbers makes it seem like much more (thankfully I do find comfort in one” mistake-eraser” I count on… my washing machine).

I choose to acknowledge with gratitude my place in life as I celebrate how truly blessed I am with the family I have, including all the ups and downs along this road called “life.” (There are some things I could live without…like having to flush toilets for teenagers who seem to be too busy for the basics in life.)

Today, as we celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving I am reminded how grateful I am for all that happens in my life. It has made me who I am today and will shape who I am tomorrow.

I look at my family and realize that I am blessed beyond belief.

If my house looks like a tornado hit a trailer park, laundry is piled up (socks hanging from the chandeliers) and old pizza residing in the corners of the couch (what is left of it)… so be it. The fact that my interior decor is several shades of paint intermittently displaying early toddler scribbling (amongst the evidence of teenage angst) and there isn’t “Live! Love! Laugh! = FAMILY” in lettered wood cut-outs in the front hallway…it is still my home. It is the hub where my children lives are being lived and I am most grateful to have each of them in my life. (I am equally grateful that family services and public health in this area are understaffed!)

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I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebrating with gratitude all the blessings family and friends bring into one’s life.

A Grateful Garden Goat!

 

How I do it…Minute to Minute

People always ask me how I manage…Something about having 9 kids, working fulltime …the expectation is that I should be crazy by now…the truth is I am. So after having asked me a bazilion questions concerning why (and often how…sadly) and if the tribe all have the same father (or how I can afford this or how I, personally, am contributing to the overpopulation of the planet), there is the odd, honest, interested folk that just want to know “how” I manage. The real answer is that I truly don’t. My idea of managing is a lot different from what people assume I might be doing.

Denial-bottle

“The older I get, the more I live like a recovering alcoholic…instead of “one day at a time” it is more like one moment at a time. “

The older I get, the more I live like a recovering alcoholic…instead of “one day at a time” it is more like one moment at a time. I lowered my expectations to below reality and that way I am almost always happy (this confuses the heck out of the husband)! It is a “good” day when I sit down and discover I sat in maple syrup and it is not still sticky. (!!) I often reflect on the wise words of Abraham Lincoln … “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”

I used to get my knickers in a knot if the whole house was not clean. Now I realize that would be a completely unrealistic expectation. I focus on a bubble area of about five feet all around me, if it is already clean I am delighted. If not, a few minutes of hurried activity and my bubble-space is tolerable again. Since I have welcomed denial as a permanent state I no longer struggle with having to accept the reality that a clean house, in good repair will likely elude me until the youngest I care for is at least in Grade 10 (or about another 14 years from right now).

"all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox..."

“all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox…”

When I only had five small goats (kids), on Sunday mornings, I would show up at church with the kiddos all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox. Suits and ties for the guys and pretty dresses for the gals. Then the teenage years showed up. The nature of a teen is to not want to be caught dead with their parents …(ever) and certainly not in public. This common attitude meant that I again lowered my standards. My cup was overflowing in gratitude that any of the resident juveniles were willing to be present on a Sunday morning, in our vehicle …much less wearing pants that were reasonable (not pajamas) that did not show their underwear/behind or advertise their nudist creed.

Denial offers me the advantage of being in the grocery store buying yet more sustenance for the hordes and not remember or fully appreciate this trip is not the first one of the day. The more I manage my crew minute-to-minute, I find the rest of the world quite tolerable. Due to dealing with the natives at my house I have unlimited patience elsewhere. This totally pays off as I have zero road-rage, always allowing other cars in ahead of me (husband hates this) and in general completely oblivious to the errors and issues other people have waiting in line or being frustrated by customer service representatives. I have seen and heard more than I would ever want to at my house. Again, denial is my friend.

Therefore, in living moment to moment (albeit somewhat in denial), I can enjoy many idyllic “now” moments, focusing on what went right and gratefully remember those forever. As for the other moments, since I have few expectations and revel in my denial, I hardly notice.

Some things escape my state of denial and one of those is bathing. No negotiating. Head to toe washing is mandatory every 24 hours regardless. I could easily manage without a stove sooner than I could without a washing machine or bathtub. Cleanup around here usually involves a blow torch and a belt sander and that is just for bath time.

I no longer freak if supper is not made (or eaten), if dessert is consumed before dinner, and the bathroom is disgusting. I obsess enough to be sure that I might pass the minimum health regulations for where I live.

I just think someday everything will stay just the way I left it …C-L-E-A-N…and then I will know the youngest of the children is now all grown up. Though to most of you reading this, it means F-R-E-E-D-O-M! I think the shock of something remaining CLEAN will be enough to shake me from my complacent denial into the reality; the messy days are now over. Sadly, so would be the days of the children living here.

I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me (including LAUNDRY) and enjoy my blessings as when life goes back to what is considered “normal” by most, it will spell S-A-D-N-E-S-S (in the extreme) for me as this chapter of my lifetime has come to a close.

"I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me..."

“I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me…”

A very Blessed Garden Goat

Got Milk? …Nope

There are things in life that are certain…and others that remain a mystery.

Disappearance of milk (the groceries in general) at my house falls into both categories.

Cow Wanted poster milk captioned : The certainty is that as much milk as I buy will disappear. "

“The certainty is that as much milk as I buy will disappear. “

It always disappears and how this happens remains a mystery. Okay, yes, I have a small village living at my house and should understand than any grocery item is but a mere hologram in time until consumed, but still, the stats do not add up.

The certainty is that as much milk as I buy will disappear. This milk is of no particular specialty just the regular 2% milk, four litres to a bag. Chocolate milk is different. (It disappears within minutes regardless of the quantity purchased.)

I have friends that share their horror stories of how their young children have to be bribed to consume any milk. Apparently, those genes are not in my offspring … (neither are my genes present either  … something else to blame on the husband)! I had a significant milk allergy in my youth and had one child suffer anaphylaxis on contact with milk (thankfully the allergy was outgrown).

When I had a bottle fed baby/toddler in the house, I would wait until under the cover of night (11:30 pm as the store was open to midnight) to slip out to the local drugstore and buy milk. That was the only way I could be sure there would be milk for the baby in the morning as by then the teenagers were fast asleep. The drugstore crowd could almost set their watches nightly by the time I was regularly known to show up and purchase the better part of half-a cow’s worth of the stuff!

... this goat has to sneak out nightly to replenish the cow juice!

… this goat has to sneak out nightly to replenish the cow juice!

I mentioned my midnight activities to a good friend (a gal with a family as large as mine) who found it rather entertaining that this goat has to sneak out nightly to replenish the cow juice so that there is still SOME milk left in the mornings for the baby. Other than being this friend’s source of momentary entertainment…I thought little of it. Then came Christmas time, the doorbell rings and here is this friend telling me to come outside and see the present she got me for Christmas. I open the back of her SUV only to reveal about a dozen bags of milk! This gal thought that the gift of time would be useful to for the “mother of many” and, therefore, save me a week’s worth of travelling should I take her advice and freeze the forbidden serum.

That seemed to work though the natives complained that the frozen milk was unappetizing (Yay…this way it will last longer). Due to the kindness of my friend I was able to skip a few midnight excursions. Just to be in the drugstore (again) at the end of the week and have the manager rush up to me and say “Oh I am so glad you are okay…when we did not see you we thought something terrible had happened…like you had died!”

Got Milk

Got Milk FINALLY!

Died …I did…laughing. The baby/toddler child is now older so my nightly trips are no longer as important nor does the night staff at the store miss me (although I am sure that my consistent investment in the drugstore is mourned). In an effort to control the food budget, I am thinking of only buying for one day at a time. While frustrating for the teenagers it may be rewarding for my savings account…stay tuned!

The Garden Goat